ALEC, the 501(c)(3) not-for-profit that is probably trying, if it has not already, to influence your state legislature by providing “model bills” of a distinctly anti-immigration, anti-union and anti-federal health-care reform sort, is also seeking to make inroads on education reform. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given ALEC $376,635 in grant money with these goals:
“to educate and engage its membership on more efficient state budget approaches to drive greater student outcomes, as well as educate them on beneficial ways to recruit, retain, evaluate and compensate effective teaching based upon merit and achievement.:
ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council and its membership is a select group of a not exactly educational sort. ALEC counts over 2,000 mostly Republican lawmakers among its membership as well as some 300 corporations including BP, Amazon, Walmart, Visa, eBay and the like. The funds from the Gates Foundation are to go to teaching ALEC’s members about, as noted above, “more efficient state budget approaches to drive greater student outcomes.” Considering that ALEC’s activities are directed at getting bills representing its interests introduced into state legislatures, one should wonder what sort of “efficiency” ALEC-initiated reforms would lead to.
Also, it’s notable that ALEC now-Gates Foundation-funded goals talk about “teaching” rather than “teachers,” i.e., human being who are actually in a classroom teaching students. With their mention of “student outcomes” and basing compensation for “effective teaching” on “merit and achievement” specifically, ALEC’s goals are using language associated with calls for privatizing education, via “innovations” such as charter schools and online education.
Crooks and Liars sees the Gates Foundation’s grant to ALEC as a telling example of how “Mr. Gates and his fellow trustees fully embrace the notion of killing public education one state at a time.” Describing how profitable a business online learning companies are turning out to be — and how high the cost is to public education — Lee Fang in The Nation describes a talk that lobbyist Patricia Levesque gave to philanthropists at a conference in part sponsored by the Gates Foundation. The context of Levesque’s talk was “online education and the perceived value of permitting online charter schools, funded with public education dollars”; she urged that “reformers” use “decoy legislation” to distract the “opposition,” unions.
Levesque said she planned to sponsor a series of statewide reforms, like allowing taxpayer dollars to go to religious schools by overturning the so-called Blaine Amendment, “even if it doesn’t pass…to keep them busy on that front.” She also advised paycheck protection, a unionbusting scheme, as well as a state-provided insurance program to encourage teachers to leave the union and a transparency law to force teachers unions to show additional information to the public. Needling the labor unions with all these bills, Levesque said, allows certain charter bills to fly “under the radar.”
Crooks and Liars also highlights the “cozy relationship” existing between Florida’s Governor Rick Scott and the for-profit charter organization Charter Schools USA, which manages 25 charters in Florida with about 23,500 students. The company’s operation is actually larger than 40 of 67 public school systems in the state — but you have to wonder what’s going on as a report from this summer revealed that charter schools received nearly half of the 31 F grades handed out across Florida.
Levesque is the Executive Director for the Foundation For Excellence in Education, whose Chairman is Jeb Bush and whose Board of Directors includes former New York City school chancellor and current head of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation’s education division Joel Klein. Levesque heads the very organization that, back in October, held the National Summit on Education Reform at which Rupert Murdoch trumpeted the virtues of technology in education in a keynote speech. As Care2 blogger Judy Molland writes, the Foundation For Excellence in Education has a very particular definition of educational excellence. It “champions reforms such as charter schools, performance pay for teachers, more standardized tests, and vouchers” and “many educators believe that the group’s chief goal is to privatize education by turning it into a business and thus doing away with public education entirely.”
So this is what the Gates Foundation is funding, education that is not only privatized but that is to be provided not by teachers but via teaching and if it’s via technology, via computers, via software, via online “academies” likes these videos on YouTube, so much the better — and, too, budget-wise.
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Photo by World Economic Foundation